She focuses on the trendiest farm-to-table restaurants in her area, and discovers that their ingredients don’t come from the farmers, growers and fishmongers listed on their me
nus. She interviews purveyors at chic farmer’s markets, and tries in vain to locate the farms that provide the source of their produce. She names names, and calls out chefs impartially. It is disappointing to read, and delivers the humbling experience of rubbing our noses in our most cherished fantasies.
Of course, the food world is not alone in this deception. A great deal of the “craft beer” that we drink is actually brewed in large quantities by giantic billion-dollar companies. Many of our favorite “boutique wineries” were purchased years ago by multinational beverage conglomerates. Increasingly, more and more of those folksy craft distillers are buying their whiskey from industrial warehouses in the Midwest.
We perceive food differently, although the reality is that most of us are so far removed from the source of that food that we have no idea where it comes from. Reiley does offer specific fixes for this dilemma: understand seasonality, read labels carefully and quiz chefs and servers on their definition of “local.” Ultimately, the subject may require a more intense level of scrutiny than many consumers are comfortable with or have time for.
“When it comes to something as intimate and personal as our bodies’ fuel,” said Joel Salatin, one of the nation’s leading organic and holistic farmers, “I beg people to be as discerning as they are about the Kardashians.”
Logic tells us that won’t be happening anytime soon.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, will be published by Black Opal Books in May 2016. for more information, go to amazon.com